The House on The Strand

Given most of my novels have a time-slippy element it’s surprising I haven’t read Daphne du Maurier’s The House on the Strand before. In truth I only picked it up because my talks partner, Sue Kittow, has written a book of walks based around du Maurier’s work and we’ve been asked to speak about the author to a local group.

From the first chapter I was hooked. The book dates from the 1960s and the protagonist is Dick Young, a man who can only be described as having a mid life crisis, and is lent a house in Cornwall for the summer by an old university friend – on the condition he helps him with an experiment. This involves taking a drug which transports him to the early fourteenth century, a brutal time by any standards, and even as a helpless bystander he becomes emotionally involved in the lives of lords, ladies and serfs living around Tywardreath then.

I enjoyed this well crafted book and alternately racing to finish it and throwing it down and stomping off yelling “oh, you stupid man!” at Dick. Although the writing was so vivid I travelled back to medieval times, the contemporary story of a man struggling to make sense of his life – and in so doing putting his family’s happiness at great risk – gripped me even more. Through the lens of time Dick could be seen as a selfish bastard but this book is actually a heart-wrenching portrayal of what addiction can do to the body and mind. As relevant today as it was in the 1960s.